Profile Series: Aspen Anderson (she/her)

Let’s get the basics. Name, where you are from, and your current affiliation and advisor?

My name is Aspen Anderson and I am originally from Colorado, USA. I received a BSc in Geophysical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. I am currently a Ph.D. candidate with Dr. Diana Allen at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC. 

What is the research you are currently working on?

My Ph.D. research focuses on fresh groundwater availability in coastal deltas. Many cities that are built on coastal deltas, like Vancouver, rely on groundwater to meet freshwater demand. My research uses numerical modeling to understand what geomorphic conditions affect delta formation and how this ultimately impacts the groundwater system.

If you were not a young hydrologist, what would you be doing?

I have always cared strongly about the environment, but I also find myself really enjoying working with people and seeing the enjoyment someone gets when they are empowered to do something meaningful to them. I think I would have enjoyed teaching younger children, especially in an outdoor setting. Alternatively, I find the science of exercise and nutrition really fascinating! 

What got you started on this current research? Was there some epiphany or light bulb moment?

When I started as a graduate student, I knew I wanted to work on a hydrogeological project that involved a dynamic system but also had large societal implications. When Dr. Allen suggested I look into coastal deltas, I was immediately captivated. Physically, there is so much going on in a delta; the integration of geomorphology, surface hydrology, hydrogeology, subsidence, sea-level rise, anthropogenic influences, and climate change make deltas some of the most interesting landscapes in the world (in my mind)! On top of all that, these landforms are important agricultural hubs and provide some of the largest fisheries. I think there is a lot of very cool research out there, but I have developed a soft spot for deltas over the past 5 years!

What’s your dream job, academic or otherwise?

My dream job is getting to work on water supply issues that directly impact people. I enjoy the scientific side of water-related problems but am also interested in the policy and societal implications of water. I think there are a lot of problems arising around water supply that need to be addressed, both on a small scale and globally. These problems will only become more apparent in the future and I am excited to be a part of finding solutions!

What is your favorite non-traditional source of science news (blog, podcast, etc)?

I receive a ScienceAlert in my email every morning. The email features 5 or so of the most recent scientific discoveries written in a way that anyone can understand. I enjoy reading about the new advancements in all fields of science as well as observing the communication techniques that these articles use and how I can apply some of those strategies to my own science communication. 

Who is your role model in science and why? What makes you admire them?

Do I have to just pick one? Although I have many people who have served as scientific role models, my two most important influences are Dr. Steve Anderson and Dr. Terri Houge. Dr. Anderson is actually my father and has been so supportive every time I call home regardless of if I have a problem or success to share. He loves his job and reminds me every time why I love science and how fun it is to share that with others. Dr. Terri Houge was one of my first research advisors. I learned a tremendous amount from her and can’t thank her enough for the opportunities she provided. My love for hydrology and how science integrates with society is in large part due to her.

Check out Aspen’s group webpage for more information.

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